My mother-in-law's favorite saying is: "The secret to a happy life is lots of small treats." If you're like many busy moms, you may think taking time to treat yourself is an indulgence you can't afford. But consider this: when you nurture your spirit, you decrease stress and boost your happiness, creating a domino effect throughout your family.
"Guilty pleasures are very important if they are done in moderation," says Laura Murphy, founder and president of Real Families, Inc., which provides marriage, parent and financial coaching. "Self-care is crucial to being the best you can be. Putting yourself last is not healthy."
Schedule mini-moments. Schedule time for yourself each week on the calendar. Take a walk or join a yoga or dance class.
Play. Studies show that video games, board games and mind puzzlers, like crosswords and Sudoku, are excellent ways to reduce stress and improve brain function and memory
Healing touch. Self-care, whether you spend a full day at the spa or sneak in a quick hand or foot massage, can brighten your mood, boost your self-esteem and help you feel beautiful and relaxed. According to a study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Swedish massage in particular reduces the stress hormone cortisol in the body and boosts immunity by increasing white blood cells, which fight infection and disease.
Watch TV. Television can take you out of your own reality allowing you to indulge in other people's dramas. Kasey Weidman sets aside every Thursday night to watch "Project Runway" alone in the "grown-up room" (her formal living room) with a frozen mojito in hand.
Read. About once or twice a month, following a hectic evening of extracurricular activities and homework, Caroline Winkler spends the next morning reading in bed after her kids leave for school. "Reading takes you out of yourself and your daily concerns and brings you back refreshed and ready for more," she says.
Get creative. Try your hand at scrap-booking, sewing, knitting or cooking. Need ideas? Check out continuing education classes, craft or pottery places or Pinterest.
Catch up over coffee. Join a friend for a cup of coffee and conversation. Socializing with a friend is good for your emotional health, boosting your levels of oxytocin, a natural hormone that decreases stress anxiety. And enjoyed in moderation, coffee is an antioxidant-rich drink. Research reveals that coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from Parkinson's disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.
Hit the mall. Shop for yourself whether bargain hunting or daydreaming. Try on clothes and think of the places you would dream of wearing it.
Eat out. Plan a special dinner out with friends or your family. Jennifer Gouteriez treats her family to a once-a-month dinner at an expensive, non-chain restaurant. "Fine dinner with a bottle of wine—$30 to $50 a plate." She says after working hard all month, the special dinner is a way to treat herself and her family while also trying something new.
Take a hike. Exercise is good for your body and lifts your mood. If you can, take your fitness routine outdoors and you'll reap even greater benefits.
Whatever you do, sprinkle your life with small treats to add a sense of delight to those otherwise routine days. After all, as Murphy says: "Taking care of yourself so that you are revived, energized and ready to lead your busy family is one of the best gifts you can give your family."
For Christa Melnyk Hines, a freelance writer, wife and mother of two active boys, a little chocolate every day is an essential guilty pleasure. She is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom's Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.